A few years ago during a trip to Vilnius my aunt heard that "Adam Mickiewicz is a Belorussian writer who depicted his motherland - Lithuania - in Polish". Polish, Ukrainian, Russian - all these words seem to be so obvious that we use them without any reflection. Therefore, we simplify the reality significantly. If you want to learn how complicated nationality is, take a trip to Ukraine.
Research in Sniatyn was my first experience of West Ukraine. Ukraine reminds about herself everywhere. National flags and the trident symbols in places such as bars, shops, internet cafes or vehicles. National issues mentioned in magazines for teenagers. Our country, our nation. It is completely understandable that a nation that for so long existed without a state has a huge need to confirm its identity. Consequently, at first glance one can think that Ukraine has a nationally homogenous society with identity that is defined precisely. However, when we talked to our interlocutors these matters started to be complicated.
Each of our Ukrainian interlocutors had a Polish or sometime Armenian roots. It was quite difficult to find a family in which a mixed marriage did not occur. A common definition of nationality in Sniatyn differs from what we usually understood as being Polish or Ukrainian. Many times I've heard about "the Polish church" in Sniatyn and "the Polish cemetery" in Zablotow. I found it a bit odd, as most of the Roman catholic parishioners in Sniatyn speak Ukrainian in everyday situations. In the cemetery in Zabolotow there are many inscriptions in Cyrillic. These phenomena are typical of a cultural borderland. At the same time, labels dividing a surrounding world into what is "Polish" and what is "Ukrainian" must be stated. Research conducted in Sniatyn should tell us more about that. So far, one thing is clear - nationality is an ambiguous and volatile word.
It was a hot afternoon when we visited two interesting women. Ms Czesia (born before 1939) and Ms Danusia (born during WWII) are sisters. Both grew up and lived for a long time in Sniatyn. They are alike and get along very well. But there is one difference between them - Ms Czesia calls herself "Polish" while her sister defines herself "Ukrainian". How come? They were brought up in the ethnically mixed family - their father was Polish, their mother was Ukrainian. As in the interwar period Sniatyn was a part of the Second Republic of Poland, Ms Czesia went to Polish school. She was also going to the Roman catholic church with her father. She was brought up as Polish since such decision seemed to be reasonable. Ms Danusia grew up in a different political circumstances and her path through life varied according to the situation.
Nationality still remains quite mysterious to me. After this conversation, I know that it may depend on many factors and is not always or not only a choice of an individual.
Rafal Rukat (with a little help from my friends)
15.05.2010 20:29 (0 Kommentare)
"Sniatyn Dis/Continued: Memory of Place and Displaced Memories in Official Representations an Individual Experiences" Project has started for real! The Polish part of the team shortened the full name of the project into "Operacja Sniatyn" what literally means "Sniatyn Operation". From now on for your and our convenience the shortened form...